Some people dream of business ownership but get discouraged when experiencing a less-than-successful outcome. Other people, such as Green Bay SCORE client Heidi Reed, take a look at what went wrong and make adjustments to try again.
Reed, an Oconto resident with a varied career, dreamed of opening a bakery.
“I always loved to bake and cook,” Reed said. “I took some classes in cake decorating about nine years ago and fell in love with that part of it. I started making things for my kids’ and friends’ birthdays and other events and people I didn’t know began to call me and ask, ‘Can you make something for me, too?’”
She and her husband downsized and moved to Oconto to make the dream a reality. Then, in 2015, she opened a brick-and-mortar location. However, the space didn’t have a commercial kitchen, and baking was done off-site to meet state requirements.
“The hours when I could use the commercial kitchen didn’t work with the bakery’s schedule," Reed said. "I learned the hard way that renting out a kitchen isn’t the most effective way to run a business.”
Working with SCORE mentors, Reed worked on a business plan and decided it would be most effective to launch slowly. A mobile kitchen was purchased last year, and the business, Chocolate Cow Bakery (www.chocolatecowbakery.com), was reborn.
Why the name? Reed loves cows and the rustic, hometown feel. It is also broad enough to include future plans to add chocolates to the bakery business within five years. However, the exact timing will depend on business growth.
The mobile kitchen, purchased used from a person in Janesville, needed few modifications before making the rounds at major festivals in the Oconto area last year. Building on that success, additional events and farmers' markets are planned for this season along with catering and special orders.
Because she still works at a “regular” job, baking might be done at 2 or 3 a.m.
“With the mobile kitchen, I can bake whenever I want. I just walk in the backyard, turn on the lights and go,” Reed said.
Her daughters, ages 13 and 15, and husband are her major supporters and part-time help. They encourage and motivate her to meet the goals that are part of the business plan.
“I would love to have a bricks-and-mortar shop within two years where I can expand and have customers come in," she said. "I want to be known as an excellent bakery for homemade items.”
In the interim, she said her main SCORE mentor, Karen DeBaker, is helping her with the more difficult areas of business planning such as financial projections. Reed also has hired an accountant so that she will know what needs to be done in terms of organizing records and meeting tax requirements.
“Without the accountant explaining the right way to do things, I might have waited until the end of the year and handed over a bunch of receipts. Now, I can do a spreadsheet, and the accountant told me in terms I could understand what needs to be done,” Reed said.
She focuses on learning so that the business will grow at a steady rate to ensure future success. That means detailed research, listening to customers and evaluating the best marketing methods. She says that the Oconto area is an ideal location and that her business has a huge target market.
“My customers are anyone and everyone who wants good, simple comfort desserts. People love my cupcakes. It’s a comfort food — a staple that you grew up with — and that brings good memories,” Reed said.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.